Despite Hamstring Issue, It Will Take A ‘Herculean Performance’ To Stop Novak Djokovic From Winning His Record-Tying 22nd Major At Australian Open

Despite a nagging hamstring issue, it will take a “Herculean performance” for someone to stop Novak Djokovic from winning his record-tying 22nd Grand Slam title at the Australian Open.

So says Andy Roddick, the last American man to reach the semifinals Down Under in 2009. Roddick’s Tweet came after No. 4 Djokovic dispatched No. 22 Alex De Minaur, 6-2, 6-1, 6-1 to win his 25th straight Australian Open match and reach his 54th major quarterfinal. Djokovic had no issues despite wearing a wrap on his left hamstring, which he injured at the ATP 250 event in Adelaide before the Australian Open.

Djokovic will next face Russian No. 5 seed Andrey Rublev, who advanced in five sets over No. 9 Holger Rune, who had been among the favorites to win the title.

Djokovic is 2-1 against Rublev, but they have never met on an outdoor hardcourt. Should the Serb advance, he is guaranteed to face an American in the semifinals. He would get the winner between Tommy Paul and Ben Shelton, two of three Americans in the quarterfinals, the most at the Australian Open since 2000.

“I really wanted to win in straight sets,” Djokovic said. “You obviously don’t know what is going to happen on the court. I thought the first four, five games was close. After breaking serve in the first set, I started feeling more free and more loose to hit through the ball and be more aggressive.

“I thought he was a bit more nervous towards the end of the second [set] and the beginning of the third set. I thought that was my opportunity to capitalize on those chances. Tennis is a very quick and dynamic sport. Things can change in a matter of moments, matter of points. But I kept my focus all the way through and played the best match of the year so far.”

Djokovic is playing in Australia after being deported on the eve of the tournament a year ago because he was not vaccinated against Covid-19. He also missed the U.S. Open because unvaccinated foreigners are not allowed to fly into the country. As a result, he won’t be permitted in the U.S. for the “Sunshine Swing” at Indian Wells and Miami in March.

For now, despite having to call for the trainer in an earlier match, he marches toward his 10th Australian Open and his 22nd major title, which would tie his rival Rafael Nadal, who was upset in the second round by American Mackie McDonald after dealing with his own hip issue.

Paul Annacone, the Tennis Channel analyst, pointed out that when Djokovic last won the Australian Open in 2021, he did so with an abdominal tear “and that is hugely problematic to play with.”

“He’s been amazing, we’ve seen him hobbling a little bit here and there,” Annacone said on Tennis Channel said of this year’s run.

“We’ve seen him dismantle players anyway,” he added. “I’m not really sure what’s going on. This guy’s a finely tuned athletic machine….When you look at the scorelines and you see what he’s been able to do anyway, who’s going to beat him?

He added: “Henry the Hamstring could take him out. Otherwise, say goodnight.”